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pornography wasn't sex but fantasies of an impossibly hospitable world
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Posted - Jul 2 2011 : 7:53PM
Girlvert by Orianna Small aka Ashley Blue
Where to start with this one. I've read a number of porn bios and this has to be the most disturbing and sleazy of them all. Small seems to have a real talent for writing though, she keeps the narrative moving and her writing is free of any amateurish flaws. The book itself is also nicely and professionally designed.
Small entered the porn industry just as it peaked both in terms of cheapo 'extreme' productions and profitability. Her first scene is with her boyfriend and Ed Powers. She quickly moves on to working for Vince Voyeur, Mike John, Khan Tusion, Brandon Iron, and Jim Powers/Jeff Stewart, many of them renamed in the book to avoid any charges of libel I assume, as she doesn't hold back in dishing the dirt on any of them.
The only scene outside of her own Girlvert series that she chooses to praise is her memorable appearance in Jake Malone's first Slave Dolls with Manuel Ferrara and Roxanne Hall.
Otherwise, the book is broken into chapters alternating between her very dysfunctional relationship with Trent Tesoro and a later boyfriend (Stanley? Darkko?), her constant cocaine abuse and her entry into porn, which due to some poor judgement quickly descends into the likes of her infamous scene with Khan Tusion choking her out and a gang-bang that nearly puts her into the hospital.
An early scene that borders on rape is also touched on and no it doesn't involve Max Hardcore. In fact Blue never shot with Max although they became friends of a sort and Trent and her have a graphically described threesome with the old man, who Ashley strangely enough describes as handsome, a term I've never seen attached to Max before.

It's not until later in the book that Small gets into her background, and despite her claims to have been an ordinary girl, in reality both her parents were drug addicts, her mother a hardcore junkie and Small a very serious bulimic since she was around 13. Not what we usually mean when one describes someone as ordinary, although perhaps all too ordinary for many 'poor white trash.'
Small later associates her bulimic vomiting with sexual pleasure and hence the infamous and until now mysterious act of her repeatedly shoving her hand down her mouth in her sex scenes. The stories of her childhood vomiting sprees are the most disturbing thing in the book for me, all the more so in that the grotesqueness doesn't seem conscious, or is this just a purposeful literary technique of the writer to keep things at a distance?
Small refuses to play the victim in any of the scenarios that she finds herself in, and there is a disturbing passiveness and lack of affect in many of her reactions and relations, no doubt exacerbated by her constant and monotonous drug abuse. The book reminds me of just how boring the lives of hard-partying drug users really can be, despite all the debauchery. Also, Smalls constant criticism of her boyfriend's behaviour, while apparently legitimate, also begs the question of why she simply didn't leave these braying and simpering boy-men all the sooner?
Small admits that she use to look to men constantly for her own self-worth and implies by the end that she's grown past this need. Yet even in her much more healthy relationship with the talented photographer David Naz this complete focus on the man seems to continue, as she says she gave up cocaine and eventually alcohol 'for David.'
One other contradiction is when Small criticizes her director boyfriend 'Kris' for taking 'porn as entertainment' too seriously, yet only a few chapters later she states that her Girlvert series is 'performance art.' Now I think some porn can be considered art, whatever that word means to you, but without further explanation of what she means this comes across as merely sour grapes and self-contradiction.
Also, for a book that talks with such bluntness about horrible-smelling smegma, piss and her fascination with shit, there is little to no indication that Small derives much pleasure from her various sexual encounters, outside of a note in passing that vomiting is the closest she came to orgasm until she actually achieved orgasm at the age of 19.
Edited by - BlackSix on 7/3/2011 8:28:57 PM

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Posted - Jul 3 2011 : 8:05PM
^Blacksix i enjoyed reading that,i know it might not be for everyone but i think i will get that book.
 
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pornography wasn't sex but fantasies of an impossibly hospitable world
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Posted - Jul 3 2011 : 8:15PM
^ It's worth the read stinkfist.
And GGG did a great interview with

Edited by - BlackSix on 7/3/2011 8:21:31 PM

Senior Member

Subterfuge......
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Posted - Jul 3 2011 : 8:53PM
Thanks Blacksix,look forward to reading that as GGG's blog is always good.I always liked Ashley in the movies i seen of her...whatever is said in the book will not put me off her and might open a few eyes to all us "fans" who think everything in a performers life is rosy because she is a "porn star" so she MUST have a great life.
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Doctor of the Erotic Arts

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Posted - Jul 4 2011 : 5:32PM
Excellent review blacksix!

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Posted - Jul 5 2011 : 7:58PM
I recently read a marvelous book (on the recommendation of Gore Gore Girl - thanks again!), Walter Kendrick's The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture. Less a history of pornographic objects themselves than societal (especially legal) reactions to it, Kendrick's book does a beautiful job of tracking notions of the obscene, whatever that might be (and the meaning of obscenity is certainly the central if unanswerable topic in the book).
His title stems from the quandary in which early excavators of Pompeii (in the 1700s) found themselves over what to do with explicitly erotic art found plentifully --and, most embarassing of all, publicly placed -- in the ruins. How to interpret a Roman society that so blatantly exhibited what modern culture kept hidden was a conundrum for classicists, but what to do with the unearthed material itself was a far more serious dilemma. Its historical importance argued against complete suppression, but open display was unthinkable. The "secret museum" of artifacts was made accessible to a privileged (male) few. Catalogues of the site, when they included erotica, limited viewership by small distribution, high price, and Latin passages only to those wealthy, educated, and well enough placed -- meaning the usual male patriarchy who patronizingly felt the need to shelter the rest of society from corrupting influences.
As long as the general public was protected from access to obscene material, which circulated privately amongst the privileged, no problems arose. But eventually, as cheap, colloquial literature became available to an increasingly literate public, the need was felt to control obscene material and spare the innocent Young Person from certain debasement and debauchery. And thus began the battle over obscenity, one the author takes great pains to point out is fought repeatedly in terms and strategies little changing over long time.
Kendrick covers at length the obscenity trial of Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary, to be followed a year later by Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal (Bovary won, Fleurs lost). The arguments in the case of Bovary pretty much presage what was to come in later cases for the next century. As Kendrick's history evolves, a few basic ideas came to dominate the case against obscenity. One was the matter of intention: does serious educational, hygienic, or scientific intent justify obscene content? While obscenity won out early on, serious intent later came to be a mitigating force.
A second concern is whether protecting the innocent Young Person should override the rights of others; must all adults have a library limited to that which is appropriate to a child? (This becomes a key argument in more modern times.) Early laws were written with the unwritten understanding that, of course, the educated, upper crust males were not meant to be circumscribed by the statutes, but judicial rulings later bound the law to what was actually enacted, not the wink-and-a-nudge understanding of which audiences fell under the force of law.
Most compellingly, though, was the argument over artistic merit as an exculpatory factor. In some early cases, any question of merit was excluded from consideration: obscenity was obscenity, no matter how beautifully crafted. But, this ran counter to the sense that art and pornography are mutually exclusive, since pornogrgaphy by definition was trash without any redeeming value, and hence cannot be artistic. Furthermore, much of classical literature (Ovid, Martial, Juvenal, etc) would by the standards of the era of pornography be obscene, yet was long accepted as art. The power of art over obscenity in time grew strong enough that a long succession of trials over individual works (Ulysses, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, etc) vindicated each.
Indeed, this became a crucial distinction in unleashing pornography. The obvious difficulty in proscribing obscenity is defining what is obscene (as Justice Potter Stewart so famously said, he can't define it but he knows it when he sees it. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the same thing, making laws notoriously vague.) The key Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of obscenity laws ironically also opened the floodgates with the condition that to be obscene, a work must be utterly without redeeming social importance. This requires that, to be obscene, a work must have nary a shred of value, a bar so high as to be almost impossible to meet.
With its clear focus on what constitutes the obscene, The Secret Museum nicely illuminates (not for the first time) what has historically not been obscene. Works that were vulgar, crude, personally vituperative and scatological were legal so long as they didn't drag in sex. Even to present times, one of the basic distinctions in the art vs pornography debate is whether a work is merely dirt-for-dirt's-sake -- designed with no other purpose than to sexually arouse. I have always struggled to understand why something so beautiful, not to mention biologically essential, as sex should be demonized in this way, that a work having no greater purpose than arousal must necessarily be obscene. (An interesting offshoot of the dirtiness of sex was best articulated by D.H. Lawrence, of all people; after himself going through the obscenity wars with several of his novels, he outspokenly blasted pornograohy for being insulting to sex, not treating it sacredly enough.) But, it at least was a great advance in openness that sex became finally a legitimate and important subject for treatment in literature and film. When one thinks of how long any discussion of birth control was legally proscribed, or marital guides, or (God forbid) even suggesting that normal women (as opposed to prostitutes or other fallen breeds) might have an interest in sex ... well, times they have a changed.
Kendrick offers more than I have suggested above, with his closing chapters giving nice coverage of more recent variations on the old porn wars, but the progress of obscenity is the bulk of his book. I highly recommend The Secret Museum: the writing is marked by logic, clarity, a prose style with character and many flashes of fine, dry wit. He manages not to become sidetracked by the many possible distractions in his subject and keeps sharp focus on key ideas. Though rather dated by now (originally published in 1987 with the current edition from 1996 including an afterword looking back over the intervening decade), the consistency and resiliency of the ideas on obscenity over two and a half centuries make it feel current.
 
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pornography wasn't sex but fantasies of an impossibly hospitable world
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Posted - Jul 6 2011 : 2:13AM
Great review, I read Kendricks book years ago but remember it being quite good.
Michael Perkins, a poet who also wrote some excellent Sadeian pornography of his own, also wrote a good but more personal review of literary pornography called The Secret Record: Modern Erotic Literature (originally written in 1977) that is worth seeking out.
 
Doctor of the Erotic Arts

goregoregirl.com
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Posted - Jul 6 2011 : 6:25AM
Excellent review alpha -- your write up helped crystallize a few things for me in terms of overview, as well as prompted me to think about specifics. Great stuff.
I, like you, found the discussion of the Young Person and the fear for the Young Person interesting and still relevant today -- what struck me most, and I'm paraphrasing, was the way Kendrick highlights that adults were simultaneously afraid *for* their children and afraid *of* their children. It's a simple point, but one that I think gets to the heart of fear of change, technological development, and other changings of the guard (I say this last part with tongue in cheek -- I merely mean that what is in my opinion a cypher, rolling along and developing through fresh contributions and discourse, is perceived by some to be a terrible and foreboding sign of the (always threatened) degeneration of society). If I recall correctly, Kendrick suggests that the current time (at that point late-80s? early 90s?) it is the teenage/young male who is now the "Young Person" so feared/for. Did I make that up?
Anyway, in short, agreed, and I'm glad you enjoyed this one. ;)

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Posted - Jul 6 2011 : 4:12PM
Ms GGG -- yes, you remember correctly about the Young Person. From her earlier incarnation as the innocent female whose sexual potential if tragically () unleashed would be terrifying and threatening to her male elders, she morphed into a later incarnation as a male. Largely due to the influence of people such as Dworkin and MacKinnon, the newer threat was the weak-minded male who would become a violently sexual monster once exposed to pornography. Kendrick's Afterword suggests this might be a blip, historically speaking, though he is perhaps too optimistic.
By the way, I loved his despair that the focus of pornography debate has shifted from sexual literature to images, mostly moving. As an English professor, he laments the erosion of the power of words. Not myself gifted in wielding them, I nonetheless revel in their effective use. Personally, I find well written erotic literature far more arousing than any movie.
 
Doctor of the Erotic Arts

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Posted - Jul 6 2011 : 5:53PM
Oh come now, sir, this is simply untrue.
I found that element of the book (the post-pornographic, literature unable to be pornographic, the ever-widening category of "art" and the ever-narrowing category of "porn") deeply profound, personally. Also, paired with the short discussion of how increased obsession with "seeing more" is praised in some fields and frowned upon in others (i.e. porn). That really got my brain fizzing.
And funny you mention the afterword -- both he and Linda Williams reflect that they were perhaps overly optimistic in their initial visions of where things would go next. Another scholar, I forget the name, wrote an interesting essay (I think it was in the Pornography issue of Velvet Light Trap) about how the relatively new and marginalized field of porn studies grew rapidly from the late-80s and especially early/mid-90s, and is problematic/immature in that scholars are overly optimistic about what porn can be -- the word "potential" gets used fairly frequently in certain periods/genres of sex radical feminist work on porn, and I admit to having this attitude to an extent myself in some early essays. It's always heartening to see glimmers of hope, but it's the *wanting* for it to meet that potential that has (arguably, and to an extent) created intellectual/scholarly limitations in that field. At the same time, a lot of these hopeful scholarly works have ample material that is truly groundbreaking to where the optimism doesn't bother me too much.
(Oh, and go through all that with a fine-tooth-grammar/conventions-comb! Looks like a mess of parentheses and stream of consciousness. Keeping it though :)
 
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Posted - Jul 6 2011 : 11:53PM
Great points, reminds me of Alan Moore's great essay about pornography in [ invalid url ] where he discusses the 'potential' of porn vs. what it has become in modern society. Although I think that in literature much more of value has been achieved with pornography than in film, I think the contrast reveals how much real potential there is when it comes to film/video.
Edited by - BlackSix on 7/6/2011 11:54:19 PM
 
Doctor of the Erotic Arts

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Posted - Sep 4 2011 : 3:45PM
I read John Champagne's provocatively-titled 1997 essay, "'Stop Reading Films!': Film Studies, Close Analysis, and Gay Pornography" (Cinema Journal 38.4: Summer 1997). I found much to agree and disagree with in this piece, not to mention mull over with no conclusive opinion. This is one of those essays that brings together several unfinished thoughts that have been floating around in my head for the last few years, and I found it to be incredibly stimulating in the ways that it called a lot of my approaches to pornography into question, at the same time as it prompted me to ask questions of his own approaches/assumptions etc.
Champagne takes several aspects of academia and scholarly research on porn into question: interdisciplinarity that is in truth multidisciplinary; heteronormative academia de-queering queer texts; the paradoxical ways in which capitalism thrives on, encourages, and regulates non-normative sexual behaviours; and, most critically, the traditional approach to film studies as insufficient and ill-suited to discussing pornography, particularly gay pornography. More specifically, Champagne states, "Film studies in the heteronormative academy relies on close analysis to contain the threat and promise gay porno offers to both men and women, straight and gay" (76). Harsh words, and certainly ones that sting a little for me and anyone else analyzing porn films as texts in the same way you might analyze any other genre of film. In fact, my very use of the term "genre" is problematic in light of Champagne's argument: pornography, in Champagne's opinion, is not simply "a genre amongst genres," as Linda Williams terms it.
So, if close analysis is simply a way for academia to at best legitimize the study of pornography, and at worst squash its queer subversiveness, how are we to go about analyzing porn? According to Champagne, "an analysis of the tactical responses of (homo)sexual subjects to the historical situation of the exhibition of gay pornography is of far more immediate pertinence than anything that can be said about any individual porno text" (77). What he means by this is that the context of film exhibition (arcades, theaters), the context of gay porn spectatorship (public sex, masturbation, sporadic film/spectator viewing), and the legal and community regulation of such exhibition and context are imperative to a full understanding of how pornography functions. Pornography is different from other film genres. Furthermore, gay pornography, as a representation of non-normative sexual behaviours in a heteronormative culture, is different from straight. After an interesting theoretical opening, Champagne spends the second part of the essay analyzing the various porn arcades and stores that he has frequented in several cities, in two states.
Champagne's argument is compelling, but the moments where I paused to query his point are where I found the most richness. I enjoy having my approach to scholarship called into question when it's productive (i.e. dialogic...i.e. not Robert Jensen...), and this essay felt incredibly productive for me just in terms of thinking. For example, when Champagne discusses the lack of attention in film studies to capitalism's role in the construction and regulation of sexual identities, he states that this suggests "both that film studies can be heteronormative even when it is analyzing homosexual representations and that close textual analysis is itself structured by heterosexual presumptions and assumptions" (82). My initial reaction was to nod my head musingly, pondering my own potential "straightening" of queer texts through my traditional approach to porn film analysis. Yet, I soon was wondering how queer texts could be seen as queer to begin with when the modes of production and technologies of representation are "heteronormatizing" (I made up this word :) in themselves. In other words, if a film is produced within and by a normative apparatus, is it even that queer by the time it gets into the hands of the heteronormatizing scholar? Is Champagne overestimating how queer these texts are? This is just one example of the many places where I was prompted to do some useful thinking.
Champagne also addresses the way analyzing context and consumption can elucidate "a certain fluidity of boundaries between 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual' pleasures" (86), which is always a welcome discussion in my eyes. The same goes for his discussion of the blurring of public and private, which I find fascinating, though Champagne stops short of explicitly regarding this tension between public/private, visible/invisible, legitimate/illegitimate as erotic (which is my contention).
Ultimately, Champagne's essay is a sort of intervention in traditional film studies and close analysis, and Champagne seems to recognize his own project as somewhat futile as well as complicit in the very problems he explores. For me, it is this open-endedness and contradiction that makes the piece so useful.
If anyone would like a copy of this excellent article, email me and I'll send you the pdf.

 
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Posted - Oct 22 2011 : 3:54PM
Don't know if this counts but I'll add it here anyway. I've stumbled across Dian Hanson and starting to check out her stuff. She was a men's magazine editor (several titles) and now writes books about the history of porn, and related subjects. She wrote a book called THE BIG BOOK OF BREASTS, and the one I just bought, THE BIG BOOK OF BREASTS IN 3-D. Since 3-D photography is a hobby/interest of mine, that was #1 on my list.
Got the book and I've been enjoying it. It's largish--not a mammoth coffee table book but about double the size of a normal hardback. There's a prose introduction (illustrated) discussing stereo photography and porn through the last century. Then it goes to a collection of full-page images of cheesecake nudes in 3-D (the kind you typically saw up to the mid 70s). The images are printed in red/blue anaglyphs with a pair of glasses provided inside the back cover.
The nudes are almost all the busty supermodels from the era: Sylvia McFarland, Uschi Digard, Chesty Morgan and so on; if you're a fan as I am, then they're old friends.
The printing is really well done. I've got a number of stereo books and the red/blue pairs typically range from disappointing to disaster, but these are very well done. The images are picked for best 3-d effect (nothing meant to tear your eyes out) and printed well so the 3-d effect carries through. It doesn't hurt that the photos are monochrome, so the red/blue isn't fighting the natural color of the photograph either. It's entirely meant to render depth.
Being a big-boob fan and a 3-d afficianado, I'm extremely pleased with it. And I'll definitely be buying for more of her books (non 3-D) in the future.
There's an interview of her [link inactive:404 - Page not found]here and the publisher website has a video .
 
Doctor of the Erotic Arts

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Posted - Dec 22 2011 : 4:27PM
A quick little review for y'all. I just read a quite recent article by Joseph W. Slade called "Eroticism and Technological Regression: The Stag Film." History and Technology 22.1 (2006): 27-52.
Some of you might know Slade's name as he is the author of that three volume reference guide on Pornography that I cannot afford. I added them to my Christmas list, but so far the folks aren't biting.
Anyway, he writes a good deal of articles about porn, and this one is a quite recent analysis of "technological regression" in stag films. Essentially, Slade argues that film is the only medium in which pornographers did not make major technological strides. In fact, he says, they stagnated on purpose, keeping seemingly inept things in the films and clinging to primitive approaches. While this could be simple inability, he believes that there is more to it; that pornographers enjoyed flaunting the underground and rebel status of porn, and that there is something erotically appealing about the stripped-down, primitive nature of stags, and pornography in general: "cultivated amateurishness asserted the authenticity of human sexuality" (27). Clearly, this is easily applicable to the development of pornography up to the present day. I find arguments about "authenticity" and porn particularly interesting, so I found Slade's argument compelling.
It's worth a read either way, and provides an accessible and engaging history of the genre, all thoroughly researched (four single-spaced pages of sources -- I can't remember the last time I saw that many references for one article).
Edited by - Gore Gore Girl on 12/22/2011 4:30:26 PM
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Doctor of the Erotic Arts

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Posted - Sep 15 2012 : 2:51PM
I re-read Linda Williams' introduction to her anthology, Porn Studies (2004), called "Porn Studies: Proliferating Pornographies On/Scene." I have read this before, so it surprises me that a concept I have struggled to articulate over the last couple of years is given a name in this essay. I've decided to simply explain this concept, rather than give a thorough review of the whole article, as I think it will prove useful and interesting to people here.
Much has been made of the "mainstreaming" of porn - people seem quite comfortable making the statement "porn is mainstream now," yet never seem to explain what they mean by this. To me, a particular appropriation of porn can be witnessed in the mainstream in advertising, Hollywood film, television...pretty much everywhere. Everyone seems to be talking about porn in books, documentaries, news articles, twitter, and even TED. Yet I cannot rent porn from netflix, cannot discuss pornography openly, cannot watch porn at my local multiplex, etc. In fact, if anything, porn is more rigorously separated off from "art" than ever before. So, what do people mean when they say porn is mainstream? Williams acknowledges "this paradoxical state of affairs" that I thought had not been addressed before, and calls it "on/scenity":
"the gesture by which a culture brings on to its public arena the very organs, acts, bodies, and pleasures that have heretofore been designated ob/scene and literally kept off-scene....On/scenity marks both the controversy and scandal of the increasingly public representations of diverse forms of sexuality and the fact that they have become increasing [sic] available to the public at large" (3).
She goes on,
"If obscenity is the term given to those sexually explicit acts that once seemed unspeakable, and were thus permanently kept off-scene, on-scenity is the more conflicted term with which we can mark the tension between the speakable and the unspeakable which animates so many of our contemporary discourses on sexuality....On/scenity is thus an ongoing negotiation that produces increased awareness of those once-obscene matters that now peek out at us from under ever bush" (4-5).
This definition doesn't take it as far as I would like in terms of the paradox of porn's position in American culture, but it at least acknowledges that porn is both marginal and mainstream. I guess I will just have to be the person to fully flesh out this theory! ;)
Edited by - Gore Gore Girl on 9/15/2012 2:56:02 PM
 
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Posted - Sep 15 2012 : 8:44PM
I think it's mainstream in that it's commonly referred to as a viable form of entertainment, whereas it used to be thought of as something only perverts used: there was something wrong with you if you needed "dirty pictures."
Watching a recent episode of Reggie Perrin, a Britcom. There's a scene where Reggie "admits" to his wife that he likes pornography. This (among other things) leads to an argument with the wife. Father-in-law comes in and gets sucked into the argument. Wifey storms out, mentions that "I think you'll find the best pornography is on Channel 497" (meant with disdain.)
A pause.
Father-in-law: "Channel 493, isn't it?"
Reggie reaches for the remote to flip the TV on.
Another example: Married With Children, various episodes, where Al professes his love of "Big-Uns" magazine.
You'd never see scenes like that on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Laura would have thrown him out of the house.
 
Doctor of the Erotic Arts

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Posted - Sep 25 2012 : 4:09PM
Ah, lovely peaceful Story Time...
I read a really good essay today. It's called "Reel Intercourse: Doing Sex on Camera" by Clarissa Smith, in the anthology Hard to Swallow: Hard-Core Pornography on Screen (2012).
Smith analyzes the individual performances of Eva Angelina and Allie Sin in order to argue that porn performers are far from generic and do not (as some anti-porn feminists would have it) represent "all women" - by this last part, I mean the argument that all women are degraded by heteroporn because porn women are interchangeable holes and stand in for women as a community. As Smith puts it, "the star precisely does not represent everywoman - she is highly individuated in order to speak to particular aesthetic and erotic tastes and interests and offering - through her name and brand - guarantees of quality and expectations of performance" (200).
Smith does some things in this essay that I am relieved to have committed to paper - things like critiquing the way scholars have tried to assess (or put down) pornography by comparing it to traditional cinematic genres and narrative; validating porn work as a form athleticism; questioning the assumption that porn workers experience their work as degrading/meaningless as opposed to requiring skills; humanizing both porn worker and porn consumer.
I especially liked Smith's closing paragraphs, in which she takes a couple of journalistic pieces to task, one from The Daily Mail:
"This patronising account of women who appear in pornographic media conforms to the stereotype of them as simply 'props' to producer's demands and viewer fantasies highlighting the particular issue of denying women in pornography any agency or intentionality in their work" (209)),
and The Guardian:
"To insist, as a recent Guardian article did, that 'The sex bits of porn are so mechanical - and so completely interchangeable' (Dowling 2008: 55) is patently false. It homogenizes practices, values, motivations and philosophies, which are then mapped on to the performances and ultimately the performers themselves. The presentation of real sex for camera is not simply documentary evidence of harm nor can it be reduced to representations of the unruliness of desire" (210).
It's a shame, then, that the images of the two performers are mislabeled - Angelina's is labeled Sin, and vice verse. Wtf.
 
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Posted - Sep 25 2012 : 8:29PM
Agreed that performers in porn aren't generic. If it were the case, you could do all of it with one actress (two for lesbian scenes) and never need any more.
The comment from The Guardian, "To insist, as a recent Guardian article did, that 'The sex bits of porn are so mechanical - and so completely interchangeable'" is something I'd have to see in context. From that little bit I can read it different ways. I often agree with it--if you watch a lot of porn, particularly the type I watch, which is stripped of plot and context and is simply just a sex scene, things become repetitive very quickly. There are often times, very often indeed, where I see something and feel like I've seen it 50 times before--not so much because of the performers' (or makers') lack of imagination, but simply because there isn't that much reasonable variation to do. Otherwise you end up with scenes of people dressed up in duck masks or chicken suits, playing naked Twister on a bed. Once you get into fetish or other special-interest videos, it gets even more repetitive because you're purposely narrowing down to certain things that push your buttons, and by changing things up, you risk removing the thing that actually pushes the button.

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Subterfuge......
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Posted - Mar 7 2013 : 6:29PM
Bump,has anyone read any good books lately im thinking about getting this since i have enjoyed booking time with escort girls etc i think it will be a good read.
 
Doctor of the Erotic Arts

goregoregirl.com
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Posted - Mar 8 2013 : 12:23PM
^ Thanks for bumping! I have read so much stuff recently I don't even know where to begin. I guess I will try to type up some thoughts after my deadline next week.
Well, while I'm here, how about this brand spanking new one: The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure ed. Tristan Taormino et al (2013).
So far, this is very good. I have read the introduction, as well as, "Emotional Truths and Thrilling Slide Shows: The Resurgence of Antiporn Feminism," an excellent analysis of, that's right, the resurgence of the antiporn movement. It's written by UK sex radical porn studies professors, Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith. They do excellent work back in the homeland. :)
I also read Constance Penley's chapter, "A Feminist Teaching Pornography? That's Like Scopes Teaching Evolution!" which details a) the Christian Right's reaction to Penley's porn studies course back in the 90s, and then details all the many reasons why porn studies courses are necessary and generally awesome.
I'm looking forward to being able to read this book more casually, post-dissertation, as there are tons of essays written by porn performers and producers that sound simply wonderful. On my radar right now: "The Power of My Vagina," by Buck Angel, "Fucking Feminism," by Dylan Ryan, and "A Question of Feminism" by Sinnamon Love.
Feminist-Porn-Book-375x375.jpg
 
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Posted - Jan 29 2015 : 5:21AM
Been a while, I remembered this thread because I just read Arsenal Pulp Press' Queer Film Classics book on [link inactive:404 - Page not found]Boys in the Sand/LA Plays Itself by Cindy Patton.
This series can be quite good, the books on Farewell My Concubine and Trash are well done (although so many queer film critics can't seem to get over Paul Morrissey's outspoken right wing politics when looking at the films) but I found the book on Montreal Main, a terrific film, to be very disappointing as it became, of all things, an apologia for pedophilia (!).
The book is written in a straight forward manner, I find some of the views towards Poole and Boys in the Sand a bit condescending, unless Patton knows things about Poole that I don't regarding Poole, but the section on LA Plays Itself is full of very valuable historical research and context about the film and its reception. Patton seems to have drawn heavily from a PhD thesis written in 1976 on the gay pornographic film industry and community in LA. I would love to track down this thesis as the quotes from it here are terrific stuff.
A short but good book, recommended. To get even more on Halsted, his times and other films I very much recommend William E. Jones exhaustively researched and well illustrated
Edited by - BlackSix on 1/29/2015 5:27:41 AM
 
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Posted - Jan 30 2015 : 11:48AM
^ Wow! I had no idea these books existed. I love Cindy Patton's Fatal Advice. Will definitely pick up this one.
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Posted - Feb 2 2015 : 2:06PM
huih I'm confused ))
 
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Posted - Feb 2 2015 : 7:20PM
^ How so?
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Posted - Feb 8 2015 : 6:05AM
Got around recently to reading Can't imagine a better book on the modern history of antiporn movements in the states. As GGG mentions this book does a very good job of also showing that 60s and 70s feminism had a far from monolithically antiporn stance.

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Posted - Jun 23 2015 : 4:08AM

Edited by - redish on 6/29/2015 4:45:18 PM
 
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Posted - Nov 24 2015 : 10:34PM
Has anyone read It gets a good blurb from Whitney Strub, who wrote the excellent Perversion for Profit already discussed in this thread but I'm wondering how balanced it actually is in its portrait of the era and the different sides of the Feminist movement on this issue.
 
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Posted - Nov 25 2015 : 10:54AM
^ From what I know of her, she is on the porn critical/sex radical side of things like us.
 
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Posted - Nov 26 2015 : 11:31PM
Great, I'm going to pick it up right away then. I don't mind a critical view, just well reasoned and researched.
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Posted - Jan 5 2016 : 4:28AM
nice book club for adt
Adult book stores cater to some of the needs of adults, meaning they pamper the basic instincts of sex and - in some cases - sleaze.
 
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Posted - Jan 14 2016 : 5:27PM
Read Brownstein's Battling Pornography and found it solid but a bit weak in spots, particularly the beginning.
Brownstein seems to take some of the anti-porn arguments at face value at first, typically her review of early feminist reactions to porn don't go much deeper than Deep Throat and she perhaps even misreprsents some feminists like Ellen Willis by quoting extensively her criticisms of Deep Throat but only mentioning in passing the rest of her argument in that essay regarding the potential of porngraphy and the dangers of self righteous puritism in the feminist movement.
Perhaps in an effort to be 'balanced' I think she gives too much credence to the claims that early on the opposition was to violent pornography not just pornography per se. I found that Perversion for Profit did a better job of showing that from the beginning there were feminists who saw the potential rather than threat in pornography, there is little of that indicated here.
In a related manner she seems to swallow the claims around Snuff wholesale, which is a little strange at this point. As usual this misreading seems to come from a lack of close viewing of the actual material under discussion or understanding of the exploitation genre and historical context that the film was produced under.
The book becomes stronger as it moves into the 80s and and goes into more detail than I've seen elsewhere regarding the clash between anti-porners, sex workers and their supporters. To read about the almost stalinist attempts to squash the voice of the sex workers, S&M practioners and pro-porn voices certainly puts the modern day claims of victimhood and attempts at historical revisionism by the anti-porn activists today into perspective.
Edited by - BlackSix on 1/14/2016 5:33:30 PM
 
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Posted - Jan 15 2016 : 10:26AM
^ Thanks for this. Could you elaborate on the part about swallowing the claims around SNUFF? Which arguments does she accept?
 
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Posted - Jan 15 2016 : 4:20PM
May not be able to put this into words too well so bear with me. She seems to accept that the film is actually 'violent pornography' as opposed to an incompetent and clear provocation in the classic exploitation sense.
She also gives too much credence to the criticisms of the film by those who clearly had not watched it as the film is insufferably boring and the violence is clearly faked.
That so many mainstream and radical feminists allowed themselves to be suckered by this film is absurd. They played right into the distributors hands and then when the obvious fictional nature of the violence was confirmed (and the violence in the tacked on sequence is as realistic as something from Blood Feast) they just doubled-down on their claims and continued to help promote the film.
I was surprised to see Susan Sontag listed as one of those who signed the petition against the film, if she had bothered to see it I'm sure her response would have been a yawn. I love Joyce Carol Oates essay on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers where she says she prefers the overt misogyny of the aforementioned Blood Feast, that is the statement of someone who understands horror and exploitation films imo.
A similarly misplaced reaction would be Pauline Kael's review of Goodbye Uncle Tom. Somehow she stumbled into this cheesy Italian modo exploitation film and her horror at the moral hypocrisy of the film becomes comic as she doesn't seem to understand that the film is exploitation, not a serious attempt to portray slavery (although ironically there are some deluded fans in the modern day who try and claim serious value for the film). I think it important to view exploitation films through the lense of their commercial purpose. The interviews with David Friedman are great for revealing what this process was in a pratical sense, including giving your film a veneer of social significance to satisfy the 'blue noses.' Hence that mixture of luridness and surface puritism in American exploitation that is read as strictly reactionary instead of a kind of cyncial irony that often slides into camp (John Waters gets this and mocks that tone of moral outrage and winking turn on in his own films).
The fact that some directors and actors are able to communicate other things through am exploitation film, either intentionally or unintentionally, is great and what we value them for but was not the intention of the context that they were produced under.
I'm also reminded of a review by some mainstream critic of Damiano's Memories of Miss Aggie, where he admits to being drawn into the film but then 'realizing' by the end that the film was 'just' an excuse to string some sex scenes together.
I've not expressed this as well as I would like but I've already written more about the film as a film and its context in terms of exploitation than Brownstein does. I know close textual readings isn't her focus but like many histories on the subject the blurry treatment of the material discussed, plus keeping it limited to the same handful of 'examples' like Deep Throat, make it feel less rigorous and thought through.
Edited by - BlackSix on 1/15/2016 4:24:33 PM
 
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Posted - Jan 15 2016 : 4:50PM
Technically that is what any genre film does. A horror film is an excuse to string some brutal murders together, an action film is an excuse to string intense action situations together. The key is when you walk away do you feel that it was just an excuse to string the genre scenes together or did it rise above? Even in adult films, that is what rises the good above the poor.
 
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Posted - Jan 16 2016 : 8:12PM
^ That's interesting.
I never cared for horror or action, but I always thought porn and musical comedy were similar in that the story was just an excuse for a) sex, or b) singing and dancing.
But I don't know that a work needs to rise above its genre. "Singing in the Rain" is a great musical, it exemplifies the genre rather than rising above it. I consider "Bobbi Starr & Dana Dearmond's Insatiable Voyage" to be a great porn movie, but I couldn't imagine claiming that it rises above the genre in any way.
 
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Posted - Jan 16 2016 : 9:17PM
I've always thought that what rises above was the good. Other people may feel different. In my eyes if it doesn't rise above then it is average. It fulfills what is necessary, not in a bad way, but 10 years later will be forgotten. That which is truly good will still grab the audience in 10 years the same way it did when it came out.
Edited by - flash on 1/16/2016 9:20:23 PM
 
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Posted - Jan 16 2016 : 11:43PM
It is an interesting question, what makes a great genre film? I agree that to me there is something a little patronizing when a critic says a film or book 'transcends' its genre but I realize what they're trying to get at. The best genre films use the genre material to make a statement either not usually expressed in the material or they make clearer some unstated themes of the genre. Singing in the Rain for instance is actually rather a self-conscious commentary on Hollywood, romance and musicals, not just another musical.
To me, the reason I tend to value American xxx features from the classic era over the European is because more often the young directors and performers in the US were using the commercial genre form of the porn feature to express countercultural 'values' (Little Sisters, LA Plays Itself), critiques social ideas of gender and sexuality (Wet Rainbow, V: The Hot One, Sex World), or even Id-like explosions of perversity (Waterpower, Femmes De Sade). I'm not a uncritical champion of the 60/70s counterculture but I think it is significant that this current of creativity in xxx film-making died off around at the same time the counterculture went into full retreat in the US (you see the same thing in mainstream films during the transition from the 70s and the 80s, suggesting again just how close xxx and mainstream really were in the culture during this time period).
All the great genre directors in horror and exploitation like John Carpenter, Frederick R. Friedell, Larry Cohen, George Romero, Lee Frost or Larry Hill were able to do this in their respective films too. HG Lewis, Walt Davis, Doris Wishman, Ed Wood (at his best/worst) also brought some aspect of their skewed worldview into their films, inadvertently or not.
 
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Posted - Jan 17 2016 : 11:29AM
^ That's a very interesting point. On Gore Gore Girl's recommendation, I've been listening to a podcast that looks at the Manson murders in the context of Hollywood during the 60s.
[link inactive:404 - Page not found]You Must Remember This.
As I've listened, I've constantly been reminded of , but I've had trouble putting my finger on the reason. (The Rialto Report interviews old people who lived in New York during the 70s and 80s, while You Must Remember This documents Hollywood in the 60s.
But I think you could argue that the Manson murders killed off the innocence and idealism of the counter-culture just as some of the 60s experimental filmmakers were becoming part of the Hollywood establishment. Porn never became mainstream, and the free-love aspect of 60s counter-culture lived on in Golden Age porn.
 
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Posted - Jan 20 2016 : 10:43AM
Thanks BS - that makes sense.
Couldn't agree more. Reading reviews of DJANGO UNCHAINED that didn't seem to understand what genre the film was imitating, treating it as if it were the same genre as 12 YEARS A SLAVE, was embarrassing. (Reading 12 YEARS as an exploitation film would be interesting though...)
 
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Posted - Jan 20 2016 : 10:45AM
I don't mind films that excel at their particular genre without trying to "rise above." That said, genre films are appealing to me because of the way they conform to generic demand and deviate from it. I don't see playing with the rules as "rising above," though--I see it as the key pleasure of genre films.
 
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Posted - Jan 20 2016 : 9:32PM
This is one of the reasons I like so many of Tarintino's movies. He loves to deviate from the traditional three act structure.
Kill Bill: One of the conventions of Action films is that you get to know (and care about) the main character in Act I, and then you have a climatic action sequence in the final act. In Kill Bill, this aspect of the genre is turned coms pletely on its head.
Inglourious Basterds: With its final act set in a movie theater was almost a film about film. He announced that he wasn't working in the three act structure, by literally put in cards announcing each act of the 5-act movie. Similarly, the most straightforward way to read Pulp Fiction is to use the announced sequence, which offers 7 acts.
I recognize that he plays with more than just the conventions of story structure, but I like story.
 
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Posted - Jan 22 2016 : 12:07PM
I just finished David Foster Wallace's non-fiction piece, "Big Red Son," which covers his experience at the 1998 AEE/AVNs. I found out about it in Natalie Purcell's book, Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary--Purcell mentions Wallace's apocalyptic vision of the future of porn. Specifically, that he thinks the natural end result is snuff.
The essay is a lot funnier and more affectionate (in a sarcastic manner) than this reference suggests, and indeed Wallace makes the snuff comment in a footnote (the footnotes are the most interesting portions of the essay, imo). Still, Wallace is definitely disturbed, numbed, and unapologetically sickened by what he sees as gross articulations of misogyny. That said, he spends the majority of his time with Max Hardcore and, well, it's 1998. Interestingly, one criticism of Purcell's book that I had is her reliance on late-90s and mid-2000s porn as emblematic of gonzo and porn more broadly, and while her arguments still make some sense, there is also a feeling that she approaches porn in too linear a fashion.
But I digress... Here is where Wallace seems to just lay his cards out and break with the facetious humour, in a footnote (where else?):
"Your correspondents elect here to submit an opinion. [Gregory] Dark's and [Rob] Black's movies are not for men who want to be aroused and maybe masturbate. They are for men who have problems with women and want to see them humiliated. Whether Bizarro-Sleaze might conceivably help armchair misogynists 'work out' some of their anger at females is irrelevant. Catharsis is not these films' intent."
He goes on to say that porn is probably just an exaggerated version of what all media conveys, but there is little doubt that Wallace is really disgusted by the misogyny and has little interest in doing mental acrobatics to justify it. There are also places where he seems to wallow in despair in a way that annoyed me.
Wallace also has some really neat articulations of complex ideas that have been swimming around in my head. Take this meditation, for example, which for me gets a little at why hardcore and mainstream never crossed over:
"It is difficult to describe how it feels to gaze at living human beings whom you've seen perform in hard-core porn. To shake the hand of a man whose precise erectile size, angle, and vasculature are known to you. The strange I-think-we've-met-before sensation one feels upon seeing any celebrity in the flesh is here both intensified and twisted. [...] To have seen these strangers' faces in orgasm--that most unguarded and purely neural of expressions, the one so vulnerable that for centuries you basically had to marry a person to get to see it."
There are also some interesting insights provided by the industry people Wallace meets. In a footnote, Wallace quotes Harold Hecuba: "the relation between a Calvin Klein ad and a hard-core adult film is essentially the same as the relation between a funny joke and an explanation of what's funny about that joke."
If you have any interest in the gonzo era and its most infamous players, you really have to read this essay. Max Hardcore in particular is the focus, and Wallace's descriptions of him are hilarious--Max emerges as sad and pathetic, and Wallace doesn't pull any punches. It's cringe-inducing at times.
You can find the essay in the collection, Consider the Lobster and someone provided a scanned copy [link inactive:404 - Page not found]here.
 
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Posted - Jan 22 2016 : 9:59PM
I've read that essay and it is one of the better ones that Wallace wrote. I agree that Max Hardcore comes across as pathetic. I thought Wallace's discussion (in footnote 14) about the faces of the performers and the revealing of their 'hidden self' and erotic joy by the best performers was pretty insightful.
Hecuba's comments and stories are often the best part of the essay, I wonder if any of his writing is available. Would be cool to have a compilation of the better writing on pornography from porn magazines over the years (eg. Bruce Williamson's essay on Porno Chic is a classic) most of it is strictly available in the old mags themselves.

Edited by - BlackSix on 1/22/2016 10:29:02 PM

 
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Posted - Feb 7 2016 : 11:40AM
Rosco Fuji just posted an .
Might the book club want to read and discuss her book ?
Exposure-200x300.jpg
 
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Posted - Feb 11 2016 : 7:18AM
Looks interesting for sure.
 
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Posted - Feb 13 2016 : 3:57PM
^ I have read some of her other work and it's quite good, if a little uncritically celebratory of pornographic content (in the less scholarly work, at least). I think she made a career decision to transition out of the godawful academic market and into a more popular market and this is reflected in the work. Her blog is exemplary of this shift, as it often seemed more like a promotional tool for the industry, while her journal articles are actually rather good in the sense that they approached the subject critically. Now she is 100% out of academia proper (as far as I can tell) and I don't blame her.
 
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Posted - Feb 13 2016 : 4:35PM
I just finished reading a new journal article published in Sex Education: "'Everywhere they say that it's harmful but they don't say how, so I'm asking here': young people, pornography, and negotiations with notions of risk and harm" by Sanna Spisak.
This article analyzes data gathered from four Finnish sex advice sites. Spisak builds her argument on 4212 questions submitted by teens to these sites, of which just 64 (1.5%) were porn-related. She deduces from this that disconcertion over porn is much less prevalent in teens than Finnish journalists and experts have warned. She then analyzes the content of the porn-related queries, and discovers that teens worry and stress over the discourses on the risks and harms of porn far more than they worry and stress over the porn content itself. The questions posed by teens describe "the vagueness of the risk talk and alleged harm" (133). Furthermore, when teens did send queries relating to distress prompted by porn (just four queries), in three of those queries the distress centred around the shame the teen experienced in connection to their porn consumption and worry that they were hurting themselves (the fourth query concerned accidental viewing of bestiality, and subsequent inability to get the images out of their head when masturbating).
This is all very interesting and reflects what I imagine we all suspected in reference to porn panic. But, what really amazed me is the complex analytical work these teens are doing. They pose questions that highlight their understanding of genre, their recognition of fantasy vs. reality, and an intellectual curiosity that I wish my peers also had. They also point to hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the warnings and age limits assigned to various acts and materials. For example,
"What does soft-core porn mean and is it harmful?" (136).
"Why do I seem to get off on porn with real people in it more than when watching some anime/hentai porn? Another question is that why doesn't anime/hentai porn feel as 'bad' as porn with real people? (Girl, 15)" (136).
"Why are porn magazines sold to minors (15-years-olds) because it's to the same degree porn as the videos? (Girl, 16)" (137).
"Hi! I wanna ask why is not allowed to watch porn when one is over 16 when you can have sex with anybody you want (except teachers and coaches). And is it then so that if one is recording oneself having sex when 16, one can watch that video when one is 18? (Girl, 16)" (137).
These kids are savvy, and genuinely confused. They want clearer explanations of what exactly is harmful, pointing to the fact that porn research rarely if ever differentiates between genres, sex acts, mediums, and contexts. In addition, as Spisak puts it, "It seems that the different age limits for materials considered pornographic are confusing to young people. Unlike the Act on Audiovisual Programmes, young people do not seem to draw distinctions between textual, visual or audiovisual pornographic material. For them, porn is porn, independent of the media format" (137).
 
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Posted - Feb 13 2016 : 5:55PM
Great stuff! The textual question is very legit and one I've often thought about. One obvious explanation I believe has been discussed before is class based. Back when books and newspapers were the main form of popular culture there was a lot of panic over written porngraphy but with the arrival of photography and especially film the 'concerns' shifted entirely.
Andre Bazin also wrote very well on this question, as he did on so much else.
More recently I noticed that the outrage outbreak around Fifty Shades of Grey really kicked into high gear with the release of the film. Somehow despite the massive success of the book it took the film to really spark off the panic. Unfortunately a lot of it came from feminists and a few self-proclaimed spokepeople for the 'kink community.'
Now there's little doubt that Fifty Shades is reactionary trash but from what I have read no more than any number of romance novels about powerful, dominant rich men who sweep the heroine off her feet.
It seems to me the panic came from the, relative to much other written pornography, mild kink and explicit sex.
Also of concern was how prominent the book was so now it was dangerous because 'everyone' was reading it with the overt suggestion that the 'wrong type' of woman (young or simply stupid) was reading it and somehow they wouldn't be able to differentiate between fantasy and reality and would be rushing to get themselves into abusive S&M-lite relationships.
It was frankly surreal to hear such tried and true conservative arguments around the 'dangers of pornography' coming from young feminists.
Again, I'm not dismissive of criticism of the reactionary character of Fifty Shades, just the contagion metaphors of its ideas somehow 'infecting' its poor unsuspecting reader.
Edited by - BlackSix on 2/13/2016 7:55:42 PM
 
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Posted - Feb 13 2016 : 6:23PM
^ Absolutely. There were two reactions I overheard that spoke volumes about male responses to the 50 Shades phenom, also.
1. A guy somewhere (maybe here?) lamenting, "What if I were to openly read Penthouse Letters on the train?!" Ah, the panic of male dominions invaded by women.
2. My brother lamenting that he "wishes women didn't have to resort to that sort of thing." A classic liberal male reaction--"it's such a shame that women are socialized in a way that leads them to this kind of stuff."
Most of these kinds of attacks tend to take the form of literary criticism though--it's shit writing, so let's go on and on about how shit it is. Meanwhile, dudes are reading such amazing literary classics... It's the same thing as how people reacted to TWILIGHT. Teen girls and grown women getting excited about a text...let's all feel threatened and irritated by it and shit all over their fun. No girls allowed!
Edited by - Gore Gore Girl on 2/13/2016 6:23:50 PM
 
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Posted - Mar 18 2016 : 11:12PM
Found that William Rotsler's Contemporary Erotic Films had been republished as an ebook so I scooped it up on my Kindle. Read a library copy a long time ago but revisiting it with way more knowledge and context helped a lot.
Originally published very early in feature porn's history, 1973, this was republished with the new title The Golden Age of Erotic Cinema in the early 00s with a new intro helping fill-in some of the background behind it.

In fact the book is so early and localized it feels rather narrow. Basically covering the softcore slipping into hardcore era but only really covering the films that Rotsler directed himself and a handful of landmark films and few others. Still as a up close report from an active participant with interviews with stag actors and actresses it is definitely of historical interest. Rostler is an interesting guy having directed the trash classic Mantis in Lace, founded and edited Adam Film World, being an important cartoonist in the sf fanzine world and eventually making his living as a respected if minor sf paperback writer.
If you follow the link to the official Rotsler estate site there's a video about Rotsler made in part by Jean Marie Stine, author of the sf trans classic Season of the Witch!
Edited by - BlackSix on 3/18/2016 11:49:25 PM
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